Due to Utah Jazz players Rudy Gobert and Donavan Mitchell testing positive for coronavirus, the NBA season was indefinitely suspended until the NBA came up with a solution that no one has seen before.
After those two positive confirmed Covid-19 tests, all games after March 11 were canceled, and the whole league eventually got suspended. After months of quarantine and discussions on how to continue, the NBA, one of the most-watched sports on TV, is now finally back, but under very different circumstances that have had no precedent.
The league wasn’t sure how or when they were going to be able to continue because of all the concerns regarding the severity of Covid-19. The commissioners and the board found a way to continue without jeopardizing players’ health. On July 7, NBA players, coaches, staff, and reporters started to arrive at the Disney World ESPN “Bubble.” This was where players would continue their season, without live fans in the arena, and within a safe and healthy way. The NBA was taking coronavirus very seriously and had many rules in place that everyone had to follow.
Ben Golliver, who is an NBA reporter for The Washington Post, was able to describe his experience and process of entering and living in the Bubble.
“They put us through a seven-day quarantine period, which meant I could not leave my hotel room for any reason for seven days,” said Golliverin an interview with the VP. “They test me every single day for the Coronavirus, and after that time period, they actually let us out and there’s still every day I’ve been here I still get tested every single morning to make sure that I’m healthy.”
Along with the quarantine testing, players couldn’t interact with one another; they couldn’t go to each other’s rooms, go outside the Bubble, or bring people from outside the Bubble. If they did break the rules, they wouldn’t be able to play until they restarted their quarantine process and had undergone an investigation by the NBA. lt is clear that the NBA is not taking any chances. When players don’t follow the rules set in place, they put their playing time in jeopardy and can even possibly get fined.
“There hasn’t been a single positive case of a player inside the bubble to date. And we’ve been here for more than two months. So that tells you that their very strict plans are working,” said Golliver.
There are many things that the players couldn’t do, but there are also different things they can do in the pastime. In the Bubble, there is a barbershop, nail salon, multiple pools, tennis courts, golf courts, fishing pods, and many other activities the players can do. Players also have been participating in video game tournaments with their teammates to stay competitive with one another.
Even though the NBA is doing their best to keep the players entertained off the court, there are still some players who are struggling mentally in the Bubble, especially the ones with families and kids. Clippers player Paul George spoke out on how the Bubble left him in a dark place.
“I underestimated mental health, honestly. I had anxiety. A little bit of depression. Just being locked in here. I just wasn’t there. I checked out,” said George. “Games 2, 3, 4, I wasn’t there. I felt like I wasn’t there. Shout-out to the people that were in my corner, that gave me words. They helped big time, helped get me right, [get] me back in great spirits. I can’t thank them enough.”
In the first round of the playoffs, George didn’t play well and this was due to his mental health. He has a wife and two daughters back home and it has been hard without them. He eventually got back into his old self and helped his team advance to the second round.
Players and coaches are already dealing with Covid-19, being away from their families, and the pressure of the playoffs, but they are also addressing the issues of racial injustice within the world. On players’ jerseys, there are different messages such as “Black Lives Matter, ” “Freedom,” “Education Reform,” “Vote,” and many more. They are using their platforms as prominent sports figures to take a stand against these issues. Even before entering the league once again, players made it clear that they were going to continue to fight this injustice.
“You’re going to continue to hear us,” said Oklahoma City Thunder, Chris Paul in Chris Paul on NBA Social Activism. “This isn’t a ‘shut up and dribble’ situation.”
There have been players who have boycotted games and even wanted to postpone the season after the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin. They are not ignoring this issue and want the rest of the NBA to do more taking a stand against police brutality and racism.
“With this money, you could help out even more people and continue to give more importantly your time and energy towards the BLM movement,” said Austin Rivers in Chris Paul on NBA Social Activism “Which I’m 100 percent on board with. Because change needs to happen, and injustice has been going on too long.”
The NBA Bubble has become an engaging experience for many fans to watch and is far from over. Players and coaches have been exposed to a different basketball lifestyle and fans have seen how that has affected their game and mental health. Reporters were able to participate in this new lifestyle and were faced with a different style of reporting. The Bubble life has proven not to be for everyone, but many people have enjoyed it.
“Well, I think I’m one of the few people who’s actually had a really really good time here,” said Golliver. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s been exhausting and tough, but for somebody who just absolutely loves basketball and who wants to be able to watch as much a bit as possible, it’s actually been really efficient.”
As the NBA still looks for a new normal in basketball, the Bubble has turned out to be a good answer. Covid-19 has put a stop to many things, but the NBA has been doing an amazing job to keep basketball on TV.